“Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.”
How I wish I could treat this election like just another chapter in our efforts to get democracy right. But as I said many times before, the stakes are too high to casually accept it as the new status quo. Understanding people’s motivation in voting against their own best interests seems an important step in trying to prevent it in the future, but the possibility of a future is fast disappearing. That’s something new.
But what just happened is nothing new. We have been here before. I just finished reading “Freedom’s Road” by Howard Fast about the Reconstruction Period after the Civil War. The parallels are uncanny. If I had my way, this would be required reading in every high school in the country, but in fact, many college students in Texas when interviewed didn’t even know who won the Civil War, so they’re hardly prepared to deal with the nuances of the aftermath. And in fact, no one won, not only because, in William Stafford’s words “every war has two losers,” but because the war never ended. It just moved from slavery to Ku Klux Klan martial law to Jim Crow law to purposeful mass imprisonment of blacks to police killings of blacks to electing someone pandering to and supported by White Supremacists.
During the Reconstruction time, poor blacks and some whites started to get together, purchase land together, work together in the Congress, in defiance of all predictions that the two races could never mingle. But of course, those whose lives were based on feeling superior by making others inferior couldn’t accept that. So in 1877 when Rutherford B. Hayes ran for President, things took a sharp left turn away from Truth and Reconciliation. Turns out that Hayes lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden, but promised a Congressional Commission he’d remove the troops if they gave him 20 contested electoral votes. They did and he did and the Ku Klux Klan rose up to begin their reign of terror. And the repercussions echoed down 140 years to last week’s fiasco, when the KKK marched openly in North Carolina to celebrate Trump’s victory.
If you’re interested in being part of the movement to actually make change from the inside, do read Freedom Road. Watch Tim Wise’s video where he explains so clearly and passionately how folks in power who cared nothing for poor whites and in fact, were screwing them over, convinced them that they were part of the special White team by putting them on the slave patrol and concocting their scientific and Biblical “proofs” of racial superiority.
And that’s the supreme irony. The people exulting in the streets are going to be hardest hit by Trump’s non-plan to improve the economy while continuing to give rich whites like himself permission to not contribute a penny in taxes. He and his cronies will keep outsourcing to China and beyond, taking jobs from the very white working class that is suffering from that loss. He is not their friend, in fact, disdains them as losers while happily feeding their fantasies for his own greed and power. And so the very thing they hope for—increased economic opportunity will not come to pass. That’s the first way they lose when they think they’ve won.
Then there’s the folks who openly exult in the permission to blame, vilify, slander, threaten, hurt and hate people they don’t know so they can keep feeding the fantasy of their superiority because they have the right skin color and go to the right church. But what kind of victory is that to live a life steeped in hatred? How will they answer when St. Peter asks, “Did you love your neighbor as yourself?” How can they feel proud of building their identity based on denying humanity in others? Loss number two.
And finally, while they were expressing their anger against women and hatred of do-gooder liberals, did they stop to think about the consequences of someone like You-Know-Who (I can’t stand to say his name anymore) at the helm? Do they realize how easy it will be for ISIS recruiters now? Do they understand that the anything-goes party of assault weapons might turn against them next time they go to the shopping mall or movie theater or school? (No one stops to ask who you voted for as they begin pumping bullets into innocent bystanders.) Have they stopped to think that fueling the male fantasy of sexual predators might mean their own wives or daughters raped or abused? And when it comes to climate change, everyone loses.
In the last post, I took my tiny steps to trying to understand the “others” who allowed this to happen. But you see the limits of my understanding. I’m furious, because other’s ignorance is in my face and I realize it and in their face and they don’t. I’m terrified, I’m despondent, I’m outraged and sometimes I can bring things up with a taste of honey so others can hear it better and other times I want to scream, “Are you out of your f……in’ mind!!!!” Both are real and both are true.
I suspect no one who would do well to consider the three ways they lost when they thought they won will read this. But still I said it. We’ve been here before, but now the price has gone up and we won’t get many more chances—if any— to learn this lesson.
Better do our homework—the test is in five minutes.